Peter Karmanos, the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, has sold his Ontario Hockey League franchise, the Plymouth Whalers, to a group that will move the team to Flint next season.
From Brad Galli of WXYZ-TV Detroit:
While this is obviously big news for junior hockey fans in Michigan, it also raises the question about Karmanos and his future as an NHL owner. If it’s “time” now to sell the Whalers due to the fact he’s “71 going on 72,” will it soon be time to sell the ‘Canes?
Karmanos indicated in September that he’d be willing to sell a majority share of the ‘Canes, and his explanation was almost identical to his explanation for selling his OHL team.
“I’m 71 years old, and at 71 you start planning stuff like that,” Karmanos said, per the News & Observer. “I’m looking for the proper way to make sure the team has continuity, hopefully with people in North Carolina.”
Karmanos was also adamant that the team “isn’t going to leave” North Carolina.
“I’m tired of hearing that,” he said. “Why would it leave?”
The Hurricanes rank 29th in NHL attendance this season, averaging just 12,456 fans per game at PNC Arena. Which, since he asked, is one potential reason it would leave.
Also, those arenas currently being built in Quebec City and Las Vegas. A couple of more reasons right there.
Basically, the same reasons people cite when they talk about the Florida Panthers or Arizona Coyotes relocating from their respective markets.
Is it all just baseless speculation? The ‘Canes, after all, have a lease that runs through 2024, and Karmanos notes they have “one of the best arena deals in the league.” Plus, the NHL has fought hard to keep franchises in Arizona and Florida, with commissioner Gary Bettman being successful in finding new owners that maintain they’re committed to those non-traditional markets.
But until Karmanos — who in 1997 moved the franchise to Carolina from Hartford — sells, there will continue to be speculation, fair or not.
The ‘Canes, by the way, won again last night, improving their record to 4-1-1 in their last six.
Related: How ’bout those Carolina Hurricanes